They call it ‘old-timers’ disease in jest. Those who have in any way been touched by Alzheimer’s disease will be the first to reply that it is nothing to joke about. Although classified as a form of dementia, this disease goes far beyond the pale compared to other forms of the disease. First it robs its victims of their memory. As it progresses, it robs its victims of their dignity, as it robs them of their personality. Finally, after also robbing them of their savings and checking accounts, it robs them of their lives…and not in any virtual sense. Alzheimer’s disease kills, plain and simple. While deaths attributed to breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV infections have all decreased, a 2000-2010 survey showed that deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease, compared to the aforementioned maladies, increased by 68 percent. Without a cure, as the baby boomer generation ages, that number will grow.
While it is true that there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, there is ongoing research into the causes, which may lead to a cure. This research is far from free, in fact it can be expensive. That is where the Alzheimer’s Association steps in. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is one of their biggest fundraising drives, and on the afternoon of September 13, the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association held a Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Jaycee Pavilion at Recreation Park in Bryan.
According to Kate Zenone, the Development and Communications Coordinator of the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, as of a day prior to the event, $9,844.72 of the goal of $24,000 had been raised. Doubling as the Walk Coordinator, she projected up to 300 participants in the walk, and each one is important. “There is a lot of research being done, and a lot of clinical trials,” Ms. Zenone said. “We have over 700 sites nationwide that are doing clinical trials that we help provide funding for. Right now, we’re still trying to find that cure, but unfortunately there’s nothing out there right now that’s slowing the progression of the disease, preventing it, or curing it.” With government funding added onto the fundraising of the Alzheimer’s Association, Ms. Zenone said that they hope to have a cure in the next ten years.
In the meantime, the battle is still being fought, and some of the greatest burdens are borne by the caretakers. In 2013, 15.5 million family members and friends provided 17.7 billion (that’s billion…with a ‘b’) hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The value of that unpaid care at current ‘market’ rates? $220.2 billion dollars.
Almost 60 percent of those caretakers deal with a high level of stress as they try to do the right thing. It takes a severe toll on the caretaker, as more than one third report signs of depression. As a result, these caregivers ran up $9.3 billion in health costs themselves, and all of these figures were recorded in 2013 alone. With the steadily increasing graying of America, those numbers are on the rise.
The Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association provides information and support services for 24 counties in Northwest Ohio. They can be contacted at 800-272-3900, or on the web at www.alz.org/nwohio.